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Water for Elephants
Book by Sara Gruen published in 2007
Movie released in 2011
As far as movie and book comparisons go, this movie stayed very true to the book. It was great to see a movie almost be scene for scene from the book. And I thoroughly enjoyed both!
The movie starts off the way the book ends: Jacob is an elderly man standing in a circus parking lot looking lost. A ‘darn kid with a ring in his lip’ walks up to him and asks him if he needs help. The owner of the circus then comes over and invites him into his trailer. As the man calls the nursing home Jacob left from, Jacob looks at a picture on the wall and laughs while muttering “Benzini Brothers.” That is the segue into Jacob telling the circus owner his life story.
There is no bouncing back and forth between the past and present like there is in the book. I actually found this more enjoyable. When I was reading the book, I found myself speeding through the chapters with Jacob as an elderly man just to get back to the story at the circus.
The movie continues with Jacob as a young man saying goodbye to his parents before leaving his house to take his final veterinary exam at Cornell. Just like in the book, his exam is interrupted by the cops telling him his parents have been in an accident.
Jacob looses his parents, his house, and all personal belongings all in one day. He has no where to go, and no one to stay with. He begins to walk to Albany, and boards a train along the way. Little did he know that it was a circus train that would change his life.
Jacob is shown being drawn to Marlena much earlier in the movie than the book. This makes sense since the movie is shorter than the book. I enjoyed this because it cut out a lot of the unnecessary details of the book. What can I say? I’m not one for details.
A major story line that was also cut down for the movie was August. Gruen does a wonderful job of making you love to hate him. Since the movie focuses more on the love story between Jacob and Marlena, August is not shown as much. He’s still a big part of the movie because of the integral part he’s plays in them getting together… but I wouldn’t have minded seeing him a bit more on screen. Especially since Christoph Waltz played August beautifully. He’s mean, psychiotic, and fantastic.
Also, there is no Uncle Al in the movie; August is the one that runs the show. I’m assuming that this was done because in the book he was a secondary character, and it made more sense for the movie. However, I didn’t feel that it detracted from the movie at all.
When Jacob meets Rosie for the first time on screen, it’s magical. Seeing Jacob connect with such a beautiful creature on screen is just something that could not be captured in a book. It was truly heartfelt.
Jacob spends more time with and gets closer to Rosie than in the book, which makes the ending more believable to me. While reading the book, I wasn’t quite sure if that was realistic. In the movie, definitely. [No spoilers, I won’t tell you what happens! *insert evil grin here* ]
In the movie, Jacob talks to Camel in Polish, and Rosie responds. Jacob then lists a bunch of phrases for August to read aloud to Rosie in polish. The elephant does handstands, raises on her hind legs, and other tricks as well. I do not remember this happening in the book, but I very well could have missed it.
Jacob and Marlena take off together after August hits Marlena, and they spend the night in the hotel. The difference between the book and the movie is that August’s men find them at the hotel and beat up Jacob. In the book, the main clerk tells August that Marlena isn’t there.
When Jacob finds his way back to the train, he finds that Camel and Walter are missing, and he knows that they’ve been thrown from the train. Jacob climbs the top of the train to get to August’s car, but doesn’t leave the knife on his pillow as a threat like he does in the book.
At the end of the movie before the credits rolled, a montage of old family movies with Jacob, Marlena, and their children were shown. This was wonderfully done, and was a great way to wrap up the movie.
It was amazing seeing Gruen’s story come to life. The train cars, animals, tents… it was phonomenal! The circus acts brought to life were wonderful on screen. This was something that wasn’t really described in the book, since it was only from Jacob’s perspective. It was great to see, and also makes sense for the movie. Also seeing the costumes from that time period were gorgeous. The movie was total eye candy!
Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson were wonderfully cast for Jacob and Marlena. Witherspoon was stunning, and did a majority of the circus tricks Marlena did in the book. Witherspoon really made you feel for Marlena, and her love for Jacob was genuine.
I was actually hesitant to watch the movie because I wasn’t sure if Pattinson could hold up to my perception of Jacob. (Side note: I love that Pattinson played a character named Jacob : ) After watching the movie, Pattinson definitely broke out of his ‘Twilight’ mold. He was determined and loving just like Jacob was written.
Other scenes that translated well from page to screen were when Jacob meets Walter, Jacob waking up in a trunk dressed like a clown, and Camel bringing Rosie back to the circus with alcohol. They were cute scenes that I enjoyed in the book and were extremely fun on screen.
I enjoyed both the book and movie, and loved how similar they were. A definite recommend for both!
Have you read the book? Scene the movie? Maybe both? Let me know your thoughts!
This movie was sent to me by Think Jam for review. They are sponsoring a DVD/book bundle giveaway for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s release of Water for Elephants to Blu-ray and DVD on November 1, 2011.
To enter, please fill out the form below. All entries must comply with the following:
– US and Canada residents only
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Giveaway ends October 31, 2011 at midnight EST.